Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Artist Formerly Known as Camille

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A while back, I promised you guys a little something about what some call Prince's feminine side, named Camille. You could make the argument that with all his ruffles, hairspray, and skintight pants Prince didn't need to have a female side, but he did. Prince recorded his vocals at a slow pace and raised them to a female pitch and, like Boticelli's Venus emerging from the sea, Camille was born. Venus Camille was supposed to release her own album in 1986, but it got sucked into some sort of 80s music black hole, never to be seen again. Lucky for us, Camille made her voice heard on Sign O' the Times in songs like 'If I Was Your Girlfriend', a song that TLC later covered. It's gender-bending at its most confusing: Camille is a girl and should have the parts to qualify for a girlfriend i.e. best friend, right? Well yes, but Prince referred to Camille as a boy. 'Girlfriend' is the plea of a man who wants to share the intimacy of gal-pals with a woman he loves [romantically?]. Do you have a headache yet?

After a while, it wasn't enough for Camille to play second fiddle to Prince. At a time when Prince was being accused by his black fans of selling out, Camille slapped the white out of Prince, the product of an interracial marriage, and released The Black Album, a funk odyssey sure to shut up the *duo's* black critics. Prince freaked out, though, and recalled all the albums, explaining the Camille, who was unfortunately under the influence of a force dubbed 'Spooky Electric', had complete creative control. LoveSexy was put out in place of The Black Album, which got released in the 90s anyways. Critics generally choose The Black Album over LoveSexy [a case of 'once you go black, you never go back'? You decide.] although it was a big hit in Europe.

Here's my theory, which may be a bit of a stretch. I think Prince may have been telling us something about how all things is feminine and masculine at the same time and the beauty of the androgynous. Even psychologists have said that people who are best equipped to handle life are ones who have, in equal measure, stereotypically masculine qualities--aggressivity, for example--and feminine, such as compassion. And while we fawn over the Adriana Limas of the world, women all over are cutting their hair a la Rihanna because they know that there's something incredibly sexy and a little unconventional about a pretty face framed with boyish hair. [For the record, I cut my off all my hair way before Rihanna did...can't stand her but even I can't deny she's gorgeous] Camille and the hermaphrodite symbol The Purple one used in place of his name, and as the shape of one of the most immediately recognizable guitars are perhaps a message about something transcendental, spiritual or supercool that we haven't figure out yet. Actually, The DaVinci Code talks about something to this effect and does a much better job of explaining it than I am. Read it.

But still there's 'If I Was Your Girlfriend'. The rhetorical questions at the end of the track are just plain confusing. Genius work of an admitted Gemini? Hot tranny mess? Let Camille tell you about it in his own words:


1 comment:

  1. Very strange...I grew up in the 80s when Prince made it big but I don't remember "Camille."

    Keep up the great posts - I like your writing style!


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